Staying Home

For many years I would often wake up unsure of where I was.  As the grogginess cleared my head I’d try to recall–Am I at home?  Is this a hotel?  If so, where?

I traveled a lot in my former life.  I was one of those miserable bleary-eyed travelers who are easy to spot in the airports and hotels. The guy having a horrible hotel breakfast, alone.  That was me. They guy wolfing down some nasty airport food while racing to make a connection.  That was me. They guy sitting by himself in the corner charging his cell phone while waiting to catch a flight already two hours late.  That was me.  I grew to really hate traveling.

In the days before smart phones my secretary made a laminated card for me to carry in my wallet that had all my frequent flyer numbers, and all my hotel and rental car rewards numbers.  It had my Amex number and my passport number.  I still have it, but now it’s just a memento of a life I left behind.

I have lots of insane traveling stories in my past.  One memorable one started when I was in a meeting in a small town in the interior of Sao Paulo state in Brazil.  My client asked me to interview a witness, in person, as soon as possible.  In Melbourne, Australia.  So I drove to Sao Paulo and caught a flight to Miami, arriving about 4 a.m.  I worked in the airport until the first flight left for Tampa.  Once in Tampa I went to my office to deal with whatever couldn’t wait. Then I went home, switched out some clothes and headed to the airport to catch a flight to L.A. There I caught a flight to Melbourne (which is a long way away).  In Melbourne I met the witness, talked to him for less than an hour, then went back to the airport to come home. Somewhere in all that craziness of crossing the international date line I lost a day.  The day was my anniversary.  It never happened that year.

I was rarely at home, and when I was I left for the office early in the morning and came home late in the evening.  I usually worked every day, weekends included.

I racked up a zillion or so frequent flyer miles during that life.  For the first few years of my career I took no vacations.  But once the kids started growing up Cherie said (nicely) that they were going to go on vacation whether I came or not.  So I reluctantly went along.  I discovered that the world didn’t stop turning if I took a vacation, so I started taking one every year. Those vacations were the best part of that life, because in those days it was possible to really escape the office.  We’d fly into a place with no reservations and no plans other than to rent a car and start driving.  I was incommunicado that way.  With all the frequent flyer miles I had piled up we were able to take some good vacations.  Five years in a row the whole family flew to Europe for two weeks, courtesy of the airlines who profited from my misery.

Paul (The V.P of Farming) wrote a great post recently that brought all this to mind. (Go read it HERE).  I thought of myself when I read his reference to a “bleary-eyed businessman, half-dressed, swigging from a bottle of lukewarm Aquafina, clacking away at a hot laptop in a cold hotel room well past midnight, strains of ESPN looping in the background.”  What a crummy way to live.

But now all those air miles have expired or they’re sitting in my accounts unused, unneeded and unwanted. Last fall Cherie and I flew to Orlando for a business dinner for her job.  It was the first time I’d been on an airplane in 3 years. It might be the last time I’ll ever fly and that would be just fine with me.

Now I’m home.  These days I feel put out if I have to drive 15 miles to town.  I like it here.  I don’t plan to leave.

Wendell Berry says it best:

Stay Home

I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.

In the labor of the fields
longer than a man’s life
I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.

In the stillness of the trees
I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.